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A Brief History of How Indian Restaurants Emerged in the UK


Indian food is one of the very popular choices of cuisines that can be found in respectable restaurants in the United Kingdom. All kinds of typical Indian dishes can be found in Indian restaurants there; from Mutton Quorma and Biryani to Gulab Jamun and Palak Paneer. But how did this Cuisine gain such acceptability in a land that was once not familiar with such rich spices?

Perhaps the foundation for Indian food in Britain was laid almost 4 centuries ago with the formation of the East India Company. East India Company was formed to encourage trade between Britain and Indian Subcontinent. This led to the dual exchange of cultural influences on both cuisines. The British troops and traders who went back home desired to have more of the delightful Indian food that they had tasted in India.

Seamen from Bengal who manned the British ships also played a vital role in taking the Indian Cuisine to the United Kingdom. Many of these seamen dropped out in London in search of better work opportunities; these also included cooks who used to prepare meal for the other seamen. One of the first results that came out of this travelling was the publishing of Indian recipes and the commercial distribution of the famous curry powder in the late 18th century.

History tells us that the first appearance of the Indian curry was at the different coffee houses in London. Later however an Indian entrepreneur launched the first Indian restaurant in the early 19th century. This was the first Indian coffee house in London that was meant to serve quality Indian dining experience to the nobility.

It is true that this first Indian restaurant didn’t survive for more than three years, it did however set the trend and later in that century many Indian restaurants of modest nature grew in order to cater for the growing Indian community. The first proper Indian restaurant to reach great heights of popularity was built in 1926 at the Regent Street area. Chefs in this restaurant were specially hired from back home to provide authenticity to the cuisine.

In 1950s the Indian sailors introduced the ‘bombed-out’ chip shops and cafes where they altered the Indian curries to meet the British tastes and this is how curry and chips came into being and how the British mainly became aware of the Indian Cuisine.

Indian Cuisine has only grown in the UK since then and now shares an integral part in the UK’s food industry. The birth of the Chicken Tikka Masala in the British Indian Cuisine is one example of the wide acceptance of this kind of food over there.




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